Is It Safe To Feed My Chickens Table Scraps?

Is It Safe To Feed My Chickens Table Scraps Blog Cover

A common question many first time chicken keepers ask is: “can I feed my chickens table scraps/leftovers”? In fact we have recently had several people email and ask us this, so today we are going to delve down and take a look.

We have touched upon what to feed (or not feed) chickens in our previous blog post: why you are feeding your chickens to death, however we didn’t specifically mention table scraps within this.

We all know that chickens are omnivores. They will eat just about anything- plants, small animals, and insects’ and of course, whatever else they can find!

But with table scraps, it gets a bit tricky, so tricky in fact that in the UK, feeding table scraps to chickens is against the law.

Basic Chicken Nutrition

Before we look at kitchen scraps, let’s take a look at the basics of good chicken nutrition.

You should be feeding your birds a proprietary brand of feed every day in order to supply them with the correct amount of protein and nutrients they need. The bulk of their diet should be made up from this feed.

Truthfully, chickens would survive without any leftovers, but we enjoy doing it, and it recycles waste and cuts down on food cost. What’s not to like about that?

The dietary enemies of the hen are:

  • Fats- in excess
  • Processed sugars
  • Salt
  • Carbohydrates
No Processed Scraps
Make sure you don’t feed your chickens processed sugars.

Does this sound familiar?

Once we know who/what the enemy is, we can control how much and what we give to our birds. As much as we love them, we don’t want to kill them with kindness!

Kitchen Scraps We Shouldn’t Feed To Chickens

Now we know what a good basic chicken diet looks like, let’s find out which foods we definitely should not be feeding to our girls.

Meats

You should not be feeding any uncooked, moldy or processed meats to your flock. Processed meats usually contain fats, salt, and not to mention preservatives. Uncooked and moldy meat can lead to food poisoning.

Meat that has been cooked (e.g. cat food) are all ok in moderation. Your hens don’t need a daily diet of meat, other than what they may eat in the way of bugs.

Chickens are actually omnivores, which means they eat both meat and vegetables. In fact, if your chickens have a choice between a tasty meaty morsel or a piece of vegetation, they’ll probably go for the meat.

It might even surprise you to learn that chickens love to eat mice, frogs, and other types of protein found around the farm. And if one of your hens is lucky enough to snag one of these treats, get ready for a show, because the race is on and the rest of you flock will want to grab a bite as well.

Additionally, if your chickens are a tad under the weather or need an immunity boost, giving them some of their own scrambled eggs does wonder for their health. The extra protein is also excellent when your chickens are molting or stressed.

Fast Foods

Your hens should never be eating leftover Pizzas, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Hamburger Buns or French Fries. These are all loaded with excess fat and carbohydrates, which are extremely bad for chickens!

Popcorn is not recommended- it could cause an impacted crop.

Also, just in case you were wondering, hens do not need doughnuts- way too much fat and sugar!

Just try to remember that hens don’t need salt or any refined sugars.

Don't Feed Chickens Avocados
Make Sure You Don’t Feed Your Chickens Avocados

There are of course, conflicting views on what you can/should feed your chickens! I have compiled a list below of kitchen scraps you should definitely avoid feeding chickens.

  • Avocados: We have discussed them before. They contain persin which is toxic.
  • Apricot pits and Apple seeds: Apple seeds I confess I have occasionally given to my birds and they are still healthy- but I will avoid this in future. Also please never feed them Apricot pits!
  • Onions: They contain a substance called thiosulfate. I’m not going to bore you with the chemistry but it can cause something called Heinz anemia. More commonly seen in pets such as dogs that ate the garbage.
  • Uncooked Beans: Definitely avoid all uncooked beans as they contain hemagglutinin which is poisonous.
  • Raw eggs: You don’t want your hens to start egg eating do you?
  • Cat food: This one, the jury is still out. Some say no, some say ok in moderation. In my experience this is fine providing it is in moderation!
  • Citrus: Alleged to cause feather picking in birds
  • Chocolate, candy, sugar: No, no, no! They do not need it. Chocolate is toxic.

Remember, if in doubt about something- don’t feed it to them. It’s better to waste a ‘treat’ than risk making your birds sick.

So Which Scraps Can You Feed Your Birds?

Many keepers make a ‘kitchen mash’ for their birds. This consists of potato skins*, seeds, veggie peelings, banana peels, brown rice, spaghetti- whatever was left-over from the night before. They add a little water and cook it down into a mash consistency, chop it in a processor if necessary and feed to the birds when cooled down.

Don’t worry about giving them long pieces of spaghetti- having watched one of my hens suck down a baby snake; I don’t think they would have much trouble with spaghetti!

You don’t have to make mash daily. As long as the left-overs are kept cool and don’t begin to mold, you can make a weekly mash if you prefer.

*There is some controversy about potato skins. As long as they are not green and have been well cooked, they will be just fine.

If kitchen mash seems like too much effort, you can still feed your chickens kitchen scraps. Just take the scraps and place them inside the chicken pen on the floor.

As with all foods it should be in reasonable sized portions. Remember, the hens’ primary nutrition comes from her feed.

If you upset the nutritional balance you can also upset the metabolism of your flock. This can cause decreased egg laying and obesity.

This time of year produces an abundance of zucchini, cucumbers, squashes and pumpkins. All of these can be halved and fed to the flock. A pumpkin or two in the coop or run over the winter months will help relieve boredom.

Pumpkin Chicken Snack

These treats are all natural but the key is to make sure the treats don’t make up more than 10% of their daily intake.

Summary

The bottom line with feeding table scraps to your flock is making sure the scraps are healthy and nutritious. These girls are working hard to produce yummy eggs for you, so don’t fill them up with processed foods.

If you have leftover pizza, KFC etc. toss it in the trash. Remember, just because you can eat it, doesn’t mean that your chickens can- or should.

Chickens get all of their key daily nutrition from their manufactured feed, so don’t feel badly if you don’t have a daily treat for them. They are happy just to see you.

However, from experience they will be even happier if you do have a little treat with you!

Let us know in the comments below which kitchen scraps your chickens love…

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Comments

  1. Lorie Arrington says

    These is very helpful instructions to go by. Health and nutrition is a must to have a good quality food/eggs in return.

  2. Brian says

    A cabbage (of any and every variety) dangling from a line and hanging at about chicken head height is always devoured. The only difference is the time taken. A sweetheart takes about half a day, a hard white takes maybe a day (speaking for 6 ex-bat hens) plus the usual layers pellets always available and a handful of mixed corn late afternoon as a bedtime snack in the winter. Their appreciation shows in the gorgeous daily egg production.

  3. Amy says

    This post is just great! I’m new to keeping chickens and I’ve found it really helpful. We’ve just bought 4 chicks, all personality types covered ? So reading this has proved a real help. Thanks a lot ♥️

  4. clarisa o'mary says

    am i doing this right????i am new to chicken keeping.i have been trying to keep my chickens off of antibiotics….which are in the chick crumble we could find. I have been making chicken baby food. I cook equal parts fruits, veggies, and meat.I add apple cider vinegar, nutritional yeast, and oregano and thyme oils. then i mix it all up in blender. i also ferment grains and give both daily. i have lost a chicken about 4 weeks ago. i have another acting lethargic. i am hoping its not my food. please any advice is appreciated.

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Clarisa,

      As a beginner I would not recommend mixing your own chick feed as it is very easy to get the quantities wrong and to cause malnutrition. If you want to keep them off antibiotics, you can purchase un-medicated feed instead.

      I would recommend this 🙂

      Claire

      • clarisa o'mary says

        thanks for the advice… its been a few days and my chick is doing better. she will be able to join the other girls. she is drinking plenty of water today and eating again

  5. Birgs says

    I feed my 40 girls raw and cooked meat and fish regularly…they go crazy for it. They get vegies, grains, seeds, DE, ACV, dried, crushed eggshells and anything they can find on our huge property. I give them some pellets but not many and want to take them out of their diet completely. Any advice on how I can do this please.

  6. Benjamin Witt says

    Very helpful my neighbor keeps dumping scraps in my yard I have lost several very healthy hens and a huge r.r. rooster he was only four slow death I think they have ate avacados not sure but now I know and have stopped my neighbor forom throwing scraps and stopped kids from giving pizza

  7. Amanda says

    My son loves feeding our neighbors chickens, at first it was apples off the tree. Then I told him only the ones that hit the ground, as I was harvesting them to make goodies. The neighbor asked him to peel them cause the chickens weren’t eating the peels and it created a mess in his yard. my son diligently peeled the apple, he loves the chickens. When he ran out of apples he went hunting for worms and bugs under rocks. At Halloween I let him take the chickens the pan of pumpkin guts. Now I hate wasting stuff and all this holiday cooking has lots of fruit and veggie scraps, I wanted to let my son start giving them to the chickens but don’t want them being hurt by our action, they aren’t ours and we are given eggs. now i can rest assured we wont be hurting them.

  8. Susan says

    I daily cook up and make a mash of pumpkin, sweet potato and normal potato for my chickens. Then to their tray I add finely grated carrot, finely grated red or white cabbage, lettuce leaves and finely grated cheese. I then top it off with chopped spinach and a little corn maize. I feed them this mid afternoon. They also have all day access to commercial feed but they do seem to love this treat. I have found this site very informative – especially about the ACV. I take it daily so will be adding it the chickens’ water. Also – does anyone have any ideas on how to control an extremely aggressive rooster? Aggressive to us. Hates us! We only keep him to protect the girls and to fertilize the eggs so we don’t have to introduce new hens all the time.

  9. Sheral Wales says

    I’m having s problem with feather pecking. Some of my girls have no feathers on their back sides. Chickens being omnivores I would think uncooked unprocessed meats would be good for them of course in moderation. What would you suggest would curb this problem. I have not yet started feeding raw meats

  10. Shev says

    This was really helpful for me as a newbie. We’re a little strange as we don’t have any hens. We “came into possession” of 3 cockerels recently. We think they were abandoned. They get on well so we’ve decided to keep them. No one else will take them. It’s hard to find any cockerel specific advice. Can most thing apply to them? Is there anything we should add or remove from their diet specifically?

  11. Connie Spittal says

    Our ladies love watermelon, cantaloupe and zucchini scraps. Of course with some of the fruit left on. They had a blast pecking the watermelon “necklace” I made and hung in their run. They also love lettuce and shredded carrots and yellow delicious apples that fall near their run. I believe they have adjusted to the loud “ping” of an apple hitting the metal roof of their run. I know they’re enjoy the apple treat coming later. No seeds though.

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